August 2009:How Google Beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic Web

August 2009:How Google
Beat Amazon and Ebay to the
Semantic Web
By: Paul Ford
(Written in 2002)
Virtual Marketplace
Amazon and Ebay earn profits through a
virtual marketplace
Buyers and Sellers were allowed to
interact through their website to make
Amazon and Ebay take a “cut” of every
Google develops Semantic Web
What is a semantic web?
*A way of describing things for computers to understand
* The meaning, not just what’s going on
Example of this logic:
Jim has a friend named Paul.
Therefore, Paul has a friend
named Jim
Idea: using a language called RDF to put logical
statements on internet that can be searched, analyzed,
and processed.
*statements can now be combined
Semweb is not just pages and links; it is relationships
Semantics vs. Syntax
How is semweb thought to be achieved?
*Generate meaning from a whole lot of
syntactically stable statements (millions)
 Idea: a centralized database could be used
across the entire web by everyone
 Everybody has their own little database for their
*Google introduces Google Marketplace Search,
Google Personal Agent, Google Verification
Manager, and Google Marketplace Manager.
Google Marketplace Search
A Google Semantic Search feature
 You enter: buy: martin guitar
*to see all people selling Martin-brand guitars
 You can organize results by price, condition, model number,
new/used, and proximity
 Google gets this information by crawling the RDDL files, which point
to RDF files…
Example: (Scott Rahin) lives in Zip Code (11231)
(Scott Rahin) has a (Martin Guitar)
[Scott’s] (Martin Guitar) costs ($900)
 Things in parentheses/brackets are pointers: pointing to URL’s that
contain special knowledge about it:
(Martin Guitar) is an (Acoustic Guitar)
(Guitar) is an (Instrument)
 RDF- data about web data (metadata)
Web Accountability and Rating
Different websites contain statements about the same person:
[Kara Dobbs] says (Scott Rahin) is (Trustworthy)
*on James Drevin’s site, Google finds:
[James Drevin] says (Scott Rahin) is (Trustworthy)
and [Citibank] says (James Drevin) is (Trustworthy)
 How is this like Pagerank?
*quality of RDF depends on quality of others pointing towards it
 What problems could arise from this framework?
*nature of truth and human behavior
*intrude on privacy
 Many other things could also be included in framework
Google Marketplace Manager
How does Google get the information?
 MM is software that resembles a spreadsheet in which
you list personal information (what you want to buy/sell
 MM initially a “logical statement editor”
 People enter names, addresses etc., and MM saved
RDF files, and Google updated
 What is Open Product Taxonomy?
*a structured thesaurus where you identify the type of
product for sale
Example: you enter an ISBN # from back of book and MM
fills the rest in (author, copyright etc.) by querying for
Google Personal Agent
Service rather than search
 Software that queried Google and notified
you when it found what you wanted
 You could be updated on ANYTHING
Example: You want to know when the price
of a video game goes down.
 Negotiating for you: if it found an ipod in
good condition for less than $100
*Negotiation would depend on preset rules
Google Verification Service
“Web of Trust” idea
 Verification and rating service for $15 a
 You must answer a questionnaire, go
through a credit check, and provide some
bank account information
 People reluctant to participate, yet trust
Google because they are the marketplace
What happened to Ebay and
Other clones of MM were made, but they didn’t charge a transaction
 Amazon and Ebay incorporated RDF on their auction-based and
item sales sites
 Drop box introduced by Citibank:
*identified by a single number; can only receive deposits straight to a
checking/savings account
*no risk giving out the number
*no fee for deposits
Result: Everyone could sell their goods without any “middleman”
 Google eventually dropped its fees and allowed Drob Box accounts
also, charging $25 a year for MM software sellers
 Google would tie Drop Box accounts to stock to try to make profit
Semantically Terrifying Future?
Too much privacy, or not enough privacy?
 Guns and Drug smuggling:
*Example of the yacht
*Google Personal Agent acting as the
“middleman” with code words
* “the seller who wont sell you out”
 Possibility of Mandatory Metadata Review